Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sixty-Three: Distinctions

I found a blog post today that argues that we have to wholly re-vamp language in order to have ways to discuss relationships that aren't "problematic". The argument seems to be that Western culture applies the evil idea of binary division to love and that this inhibits relationships from evolving beyond the "problematic".  It's taken as a given that all binary divisions are evil, of course. The particular evil binary here is the division of romantic-sexual and platonic love. The argument I suppose is that all relationships, like all categories, should be fluid and amorphous, and that any fixed distinctions led to exclusion, marginalization, and oppression.

The blog post claims that a new language is needed to "accept the possibilities and realities of asexual romance, primary nonsexual/nonromantic love, nonromantic sex and sexual friendship, romantic (nonsexual) friendship, queerplatonic nonsexual relationships..."  Let's leave aside for a moment the very awkward word "queerplatonic"and just think about a very clear distinction here. Relationships either involve sex or they don't. They can change--- move across the dividing line in either direction ---but there is that clear distinction. A sexual relationship can be romantic or not, monogamous or not. But it's clearly different from a non-sexual relationship, and driven by different dynamics. And we do have words for all the things on the blogger's list. We know what FWB means, we know (even if the term isn't used much these days) what "romantic friendship" is. We've had those terms for rather a while.

I am baffled by "primary non-sexual/nonromantic love", mind you. Does that mean that there's some secondary relationship that is sexual/romantic? If so, isn't that just a way of saying that someone has a close friend and a lover? How is that not about two different relationships--- relationships for which we already have terms?

I have to say that "queerplatonic" is just an awkward and silly and unattractive word. It seems to mean a relationship between two people of the same sex that's emotionally deep and long-lasting but not sexual. But didn't Jay & Silent Bob give that the much better description of "hetero life-mates" years ago? And how exactly is it different from a close same-sex friendship, except in using "queer" to imply (or confirm the suspicion) that all close same-sex friendships must be "in reality" sublimated gay affairs?

Sex is a dividing line, and it always has been. Relationships where sex is or likely soon will be happening have a very different emotional content from those where sex isn't or hasn't or won't be happening. That's not just about jealousy, mind you. Even the most casual FWB relationship has different drivers from a non-sexual friendship, and has different expectations and a different sense of timing. Adding sex to a relationship, even in its most casual form, adds a very different set of questions, questions about when sex will happen, about whether it'll happen again, about how one's performance was assessed, about how third parties will treat the news. 

I have to wonder if this particular attack on the evil binary is based on a desire to see the power and distinctiveness of sexuality drained away, to argue that sex  should not have the power to define a relationship--- which is part of the argument that sex can be taken out of male-female interactions, or that intense sexual/romantic love is somehow unnecessary or suspect. There's a subtext here, and an agenda. We already have the vocabulary for different forms of relationship, so what's at issue is something more conceptual, more ideological.

Any thoughts on this? Are your own relationships hampered or thwarted by a lack of vocabulary to describe what you want? What distinctions do you draw amongst your relationships?   

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